WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - The air traffic control tower at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield could be shut down under changes currently being considered by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The agency will have to cut $600 million from its budget if no deal is reached to avert automatic government spending cuts, which are set to go into effect on Friday. The Barnes tower, is among more than 100 control towers nationwide that would be shut down under the plan; most of which are located at smaller airports.
Brian Barnes, Manager of Barnes Municipal Airport, told 22News that the change would have an effect on them, but would not cause the airport, which serves small planes and personal jets, to close.
The move would also have an impact on the Military, as the air traffic control tower at Barnes is used by the jets at the adjacent Barnes Air National Guard Base. Major Matthew Mutti of the 104th Fighter Wing told 22News that the alert capabilities of the base would continue, they will just have to find a way to work around a potential tower closure. Barnes does not have a midnight shift at their tower, for instance, and Maj. Mutti says that during that time, control for military aircraft from Barnes goes out of Bradley International Airport.
Maj. Mutti noted, however, that the proposal for the tower closure is just that; a proposal. It does not mean that when the spending cuts go into effect that the tower will immediately or even imminently close.
In addition to the proposed tower closures, the FAA is also considering eliminating midnight shifts in 60 moderate-sized airports, such as Albany International Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Bradley International Airport and Logan International Airport would not be impacted by tower closures under the plan, but the Department of Transportation is warning of a huge increase in flight delays nationwide, due to a part of the proposal that would furlough nearly all FAA employees one day per pay period until September.
"Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours, because we will have fewer controllers on staff," read a letter sent out by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.